Cars driving on an expressway

The level of concern Americans have about the coronavirus declined for a second consecutive month in June, part of a gradual reduction from a peak in April. Just over one-third of persons aged 16-54 surveyed by NuVoodoo (35%) said they are “extremely concerned and have significantly altered” their regular activities due to the crisis in the period from June 1-22. That’s down from 41% in May and 46% in April.

The survey also polled consumer sentiment on the recent protests over police violence and Black Lives Matter and the ensuing national conversation about racial injustice in America. During the week of June 16-23, about half of respondents indicated they want AM/FM radio to share ways to keep the community safe; talk with listeners and community leaders about what’s going on in their communities; and to report relevant facts with no opinions. Four in ten survey participants said they want their local radio station to share ways to support and protect local businesses and report on the protests regularly.

The NuVoodoo survey also showed that Americans look positively on companies and media outlets that support the Black Lives Matter movement. “Sixty percent of Americans say they are looking for strong stands in favor of Black Lives Matters that include supportive statements, donations and ads that support Black Lives Matter as well as removing or changing content that is offensive,” said Britany Faison, Insights Manager at Cumulus Media/Westwood One, during a webinar Thursday.

The third in a series of webinars for advertisers entitled “The State Of Consumers, Audio And Media” brought more good news for broadcasters about the amount of time consumers spend in the car, where the majority of radio listening takes place. During the week of June 8, for the first time since early March, the amount of miles traveled matched the prior year, according to data from Geopath, the audience measurement service used by the outdoor advertising industry. That’s a major turnaround from the week of March 30-April 5, when weekly miles traveled were down 48% year over year. “Miles traveled has experienced a perfect V shaped recovery,” Faison said.

The pandemic’s impact on the number of cars on the road was heavily tilted toward the largest markets. In fact, miles traveled are still down 13% year-over-year in the top 10 markets and down 7% in markets 11-25. But outside the top 25, miles travelled are higher than they were at this time last year. “This relationship between market size and driving reductions explains why PPM markets in the top 50 saw listening dips and diary markets outside the top 50 markets saw no listening erosion,” Faison explained.

In another indicator of how Americans are back in the road, Apple Maps data shows driving volumes surged last week and are now 31% greater than the pre-COVID time period. But while driving has recovered, public transit has not. Current transit volumes are 54% below pre-COVID volume. “For the radio industry, lower than normal public transit usage means greater time spent in car with radio,” said Faison.

In other data released Thursday, Westwood One said during the first two weeks of June the seven-day download average for a group of ten talk radio-style podcasts was 12% higher than the number of downloads during the week of March 9 when many of the lockdowns began. It was four-times the growth rate that Westwood One recorded at the end of May. Faison said that even with the small drop in downloads during the past few months, her big takeaway is one of stability. “The incredibly stable audio streaming and podcast listening trends might cause one to conclude that audio is pandemic proof,” she said.

Westwood One also released some data from Edison Research’s Share of Ear report that shows during the second quarter of 2020 there were sizable increases for podcasting across most demos, despite the pandemic. The biggest gains between 2018 and 2020 came in the Persons 18-24 and Persons 25-34 age groups. The pandemic time crunch was most pronounced in Persons 35-44, likely due to a loss of commuting time and new responsibilities such as home-schooling kids.

“Podcasting shares have grown tremendously,” said Faison. But while Edison data shows the medium’s so-called Share of Ear doubled during the past three years among Persons 18-24, she doubts that rate of increase will hold. “I think shares will definitely continue to rise and definitely continue to increase,” said Faison. “Podcast consumption is going to continue to grow because not only are the younger demos growing, but among 35 to 54-year-olds, it’s also growing.”

Westwood One also released data that hints at how listening habits are changing during the pandemic. It pointed to Triton Digital data that showed the amount of time spent listening to the streams of Cumulus Media-owned radio stations via desktop shrank in recent months while time spent streaming via mobile apps and smart speakers has increased.